The Best European Cities for Café Culture
By Jack Stacey
26 April 2019
There is, I suspect, an image that appears in everyone’s heads, when someone says the words 'European café'.Read more
A jewel of the Italian Riviera, Portofino has managed to retain its traditional fishing village roots despite becoming a fashionable resort and sometime playground of authors and film stars.
Founded by the Romans, this beautiful town in Genoa, north-west Italy, has a history that reaches back at least as far as the eleventh century. A natural harbour afforded Portofino prosperity as a fishing village, and today the town's picturesque semi-circular waterfront, backed by a jumble of pastel pink or yellow houses above which a tree-clad hillside rises, provides visitors with a truly memorable image, and especially when approached by boat.
The natural beauty of Portofino's location - the peninsula upon which the town sits has been a protected National Park since 1935 - began to attract tourists from Italy's aristocracy at the end of the nineteenth century. By the middle of the twentieth century tourist revenue had become Portofino's primary source of income, no doubt aided by the town's association with holidaymaking stars such as Cary Grant, Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor and Rex Harrison.
Whilst Portofino's popularity with visitors remains undiminished, the town has not succumbed to the excesses of tourism and even today retains its traditional charm and atmosphere. Best explored on foot, Portofino rewards its guests with historic buildings, stunning views, superb cafes and restaurants and a host of attractions to provide a destination that is simply unforgettable.
Now a museum, Portofino's sixteenth-century defensive castle occupies a strategic position on a promontory that overlooks the town and bay, offering outstanding views. The castle is surrounded by beautiful Mediterranean flower gardens, whilst inside exhibits include a gallery of photographs of the many Hollywood stars and other notable people who have stayed in Portofino.
Built in the Romanesque architectural style in 1154, the simple but beautiful Church of San Giorgio, dedicated to the patron saint of Portofino, is reached via steps and a winding lane from the harbour. The church is notable for its mosaic-tiled pathway, bronze doors and for its small cemetery, richly planted with orchids, cyclamen and other flowers.
Although a popular holiday resort Portofino does not possess a beach of its own, but visitors wishing to relax in the sun and top up their tans need only head a few minutes along the coast to the romantic and secluded Paraggi Beach, reputedly one of the finest beaches in Italy.
The very best way to appreciate the diverse natural beauty, flora and fauna of Portofino and its surrounding countryside is to follow any of the numerous and well-defined hiking trails of Portofino's National Park.